Sanitation innovator wins Stockholm Water Prize

Sulabh‘s founder, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, was recently named the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate.  Sulabh has been working for decades to address sanitation, health, and hygiene in India and other countries.  Through inventive toilet designs, new biogas technologies, and his struggle for human rights, especially for those of the “untouchable” caste, Dr Pathak is recognized worldwide as an innovator and social reformer. A Business Standard article explains further:

The social reformer, who triggered the revolution against ‘sanitation crisis’, has been the main force behind changing social attitudes towards traditional unsanitary latrine practices in slums, rural villages and dense urban districts, and developed cost-effective toilet systems that have improved daily life and health for millions of people.

Dr Pathak will receive the award in Stockholm during World Water Week in August.

Quiz: India’s most Innovative company?

Here is the quiz:  Which of the following Indian organizations made it to the Fast Company’s list of 50 most Innovative companies in the world?

1. Infosys
2. Wipro
3. Dr. Reddys Labs
4. Aravind Eye Care System

The answer is 4. Aravind Eye Care System! Its remarkable. Aravind is the only Indian organization in the Fast Company 50 list and shares the honors with many other with others like Google, Cisco, Intel, Apple and the Obama Campaign (Yes, you heard me right!)

Below is the excerpt from Fast Company:

The network of not-for-profit hospitals and vision centers performs 300,000 eye surgeries each year — 70% for free — using broadband connections to on-call doctors in city hospitals for instant diagnosis. Camps in rural areas screen thousands of patients weekly. “We are going from village to village to provide eye care to the unreached,” says Aravind’s chairman, Dr. P. Namperumalsamy. Aravind won the 2008 Gates Award for Global Health.

Well, the folks in the Indian media need to take note. We have never seen Aravind in the list of India’s Most Innovative Companies in the past (where it rightfully belongs)

Click here to see our previous coverage on Aravind.

Inching towards ending polio

The Final Inch is a documentary funded by and produced by Vermilion Pictures, chronicling the final stages of the global fight to end polio. A large chunk of the movie was filmed in India, given that the country is the final frontier in the global effort to eradicate polio. There were 496 confirmed cases of polio in 2008 in India, accounting for 35 percent of all cases worldwide.

The documentary profiles the real heroes – the foot soldiers who are mobilized to deliver the doses of polio vaccine to young children.  India’s progress towards eradicating polio also highlights the relentless effort of the Indian government in undertaking the largest vaccination program in the world.

The Final Inch will be screened on HBO in 2009, and you can expect the DVDs to be out soon. In the meantime, enjoy the trailer:

The Experiment: E-Medicine in Rural Gujarat

Under the auspices of its “e-gram” initiative, which intends to connect all villages through broadband, the Gujarat government has launched an e-medicine scheme for rural areas.  The objective of the scheme is to “offer online and telemedicine facilities to villagers,” specifically through the installation of web cameras and other infrastructure. 

Said Health Minister Jay Narayan Vyas:

We are waiting for the panchayat department to cover all 18,000 villages in the state under the e-gram initiative. Once this is done, we are planning to use the broadband connectivity to initiate an e-medicine programme wherein we will set up e-cardio testing and e-diagnosis facilities. All villages will have these facilities over a period of two years.

Through video conferencing, doctors at a distant hospital will be able to diagnose villagers for basic ailments and prescribe medicines online. The printout of the prescription will be available at the community service centres set up by the department. 

This proposal raises a number of questions – even though the state government of Gujarat has set aside 4% of its total budget for the health sector, is funding all that is needed in order to implement such schemes?  Granted, physical infrastructure is required in order for the scheme to be operational, but how will training be provided to local medical practitioners?  Where will these services be made available?  Through PHCs?  Private clinics?  How will this equipment be maintained over time?  How much will these services cost, and how effective will diagnoses be?  Has this program been piloted in other rural areas?  Most fundamentally, how will e-diagnoses be effective when stable access to electricity isn’t even guaranteed in most parts of rural India?

The scheme is an ambitious and admirable one, but I remain skeptical as to feasibility given human and physical resource constraints.

Source:  OneWorld South Asia

TC-I Tidbits

  • Health:
    • Soon, every mother that registers at a primary health center will receive a smart card with their photo ID that tracks the medical history of their family.
    • India is among the worst hit by the health worker shortage that is occurring around the world. Moreover, the gap between urban and rural areas is even wider. According to the article, “a Planning Commission document had recently said India was short of six lakh doctors, 10 lakh nurses and two lakh dental surgeons. For every 10,000 Indians, there was one doctor.”
  • Education: The Government of India is planning to set up seven Regional Innovation Science Hubs for Inventors (RISHI) to promote innovation and encourage youngsters to take up a career in science and technology. [Source: iGovernment]
  • Housing: Over the next five years, over 500,000 low-rent homes will be built in the Mumbai metropolitan area under the Slum Prevention Programme.

TC-I Tidbits

You daily dose of headlines:

  • Health, Women and Mortality:The lack of inclusion of midwives within the National Rural Health Mission is highlighted as one of the main reasons for the high maternal mortality rate in India.
  • Education: Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (WNTA) continued to push the government to pass the Right to Education Bill.
  • Public Awareness: Swagat Thorat, a freelance journalist, has started a new magazine in braille for the visually impaired.
  • CSR: The government is looking to establish a corporate affairs institute that will look at various practices, including corporate social responsibility. In related news, the government has awarded the Rural Electrification Corporation with the Navrtna award honoring its ongoing work in expanding access to electricity to the rural poor.
  • Microinsurance: IFFCO-TOKIO General Insurance Co. Ltd. (ITGI) has created a new microinsurance product that targets India’s low income rural population.

TC-I Tidbits

Your daily dose of headlines:

  • Health: Over 53% children in India under five years – that is, 67 million – live without basic healthcare facilities. This means that India alone accounts for about one-third of all children in the world aged below five who don’t have basic healthcare. [Source: Times of India]
  • Education: There is a shortage of teachers at central universities, with 20 per cent of teaching posts being vacant since October. The government will raise the age for pension schemes, and a committee will review the pay scale to address the issue.
  • Energy: With low-interest loans for solar power from Canara Bank and Syndicate Bank, more than 100,000 people in rural Karnataka benefit from affordable and reliable electricity. The program was subsidized by the United Nations Environment Programme.

Reliance Rural Mobile Application Contest 2007 – 08 Deadline April 30th

From now own, competitions like these will be included in a once a week post on Thursdays that compile any opportunities relevant to our readers in an easy to find post. However, given that the Reliance Rural Mobile Application Contest’s deadline will have passed before we had the opportunity to post on it, we wanted to inform you all of it today. Here are the details from Let Me Know, and go here for the contest’s website.

For Whom:
Software Professionals, Self- employed Professionals,Students,Companies,Content vendors/ aggregators

Reliance Communications rated among the Asia’s 6 Topmost Valuable Telecom Companies, is India’s foremost truly integrated telecommunications service provider with over 35 million subscribers . The company has established a pan-India, next generation, integrated (wireless and wireline), convergent (voice, data and video) digital network that is capable of supporting best-of-class services spanning the entire Infocomm value chain.

The focus of the Mobile Application Contest 2007 – 08 will be on developing applications that cater to the rural customers. The applications could be in any of the following areas:

M- Commerce
Location Based Services

Applications can be developed for both CDMA and GSM technologies.

Let Me Know also notes that the deadline on the website does not accurately reflect the actual deadline.

TC-I Tidbits

  • Health:
    • At a pharmaceutical advisory forum, the Minister for Chemical and Fertilisers announced that India will reduce the cost of medicine by almost 5 percent and develop injections for live threatening infections.
    • Worried about the growing trend of obesity amongst children in the country the Ministry of Women and child Development in India is planning to soon come out with a nutrition policy. The policy will include guidelines to be circulated among the schools, an awareness campaign among the parents to check malnutrition, and stressing the importance of physical activity and sports for child health. [Source: iGovernment]
  • Women’s Rights: The government is planning to enact legislation that will protect women from sexual harassment at the workplace. Provisions for internal complaints and recommending suitable action will be provided.
  • Business: As the US economy slows, debt collection is on the rise, and even this is now being outsourced to India. Debt collectors now reside in call centers in India and cost a quarter of the price.

TC-I Tidbits

  • Health: According to a report, India is not on track toward the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child and maternal mortality. The number of children who die before their fifth birthday stands at 76 per 1,000 live births, while the goal is 38.
  • Government Schemes: The Gujarat state government’s Jyoti Gram Yojana, a program to ensure 100 per cent village electrification, increased employment and reduced migration from rural areas by 33 per cent. The government is considering scaling up further and replicating in other areas.
  • Energy: India is one of the three countries in a renewable energy project by Osram, a lighting company, where solar-powered lanterns and battery boxes will replace kerosene lamps in villages.
  • Agriculture: In some positive news following the concern of rising food prices, the government estimates that India’s total food grains will be a record 227.32 million tons, which is 10 million more tons than last year.

Job Opening: Community Resource Consultant, ACS

The American Cancer Society is looking for a US student to act as a Consultant and spend 10 weeks in Ahmedabad, India conducting an assessment of resources available to assist cancer patients with varied needs during their cancer journey, map available resources against the cancer patient needs and highlight gaps. The job is paid and the Consultant will also be compensated for airfare. Please apply immediately, preferably by the end of the week.

The full description and necessary qualifications can be found in this document: ACS Consultant

[Source: Nupur Chaudhury, Indicorps Fellow ’05 and Navami Naik, ACS]

A Look Back on the Week

To help our readers better digest the prolific number of posts that appear throughout a given week, the ThinkChange India team will be providing weekly recaps on what posts garnered the most interest and also we will highlight some older posts that we feel deserve to be featured again.

From Sunday to Sunday — The Top Posts of the Week

  1. Santosh wrote on the development of a new social capital exchange. (62 views)
  2. A post by Prerna on For Love of Water (FLOW) enjoyed the second spot this week. (40 views)
  3. Shital’s reporting on women barefoot solar engineers also got much attention this week. (31 views)

Highlighted Jobs, Internships and Other Opportunities

  1. SKS Hyderbad is soliciting applications for a summer intern and Program Director. (31 views)
  2. An internship for Source for Change also gained noticeable attention this week. (30 views)
  3. Another post on an essay competition on climate change and health also received some focus by our readers this week. (29 views)

Reaching into the Archives

In this section we will link back to an older post that we believe deserves to be featured one more time.

Fresh off of the launch of ThinkChange India, Vinay wrote an Op-Ed on the value of having both arrogance and humility with regard to being a social entrepreneur. The post originally was published on March 3, 2008. (106 views)

We hope that these weekly recaps will help you better navigate our site and to make it even easier for our readers to keep up with everything exciting that is going on in India. Also, as always, we encourage all of you to keep commenting and participating as that is the best feedback to make sure we are doing a good job.


The ThinkChange India Team

Evening Edition

  • Microfinance:

    • The Annual Policy Conference on Microfinance was held last week “to streamline India’s mircrofinance infrastructure, facilitating sustainability to support the Indian microfinance sector’s current rate of growth and provide for future growth rates.”
  • Agriculture: A pilot with agro-industries will involve a 40 crore project in every state, with the intent to utilize manpower and raw products in rural India to create livelihood opportunities.
  • Health: The government plans to introduce the HiB vaccine, which will vaccinate children against pneumonia. Pneumonia kills 4 lakh children every year in India.

India’s Affinity with Africa – A Question of Self Interest?

According to the International Energy Agency, India’s energy needs – fueled by 8% annual economic growth – are projected to double by the year 2030.  Moreover, India is expected to become the biggest net importer of oil by the year 2025, after the United States and China.   

In an attempt to secure energy resources for its buxom economy, India is courting resource-rich Africa with the long-term intent of ousting China’s influence in the region.  In fact, this upcoming April 8th and 9th, New Delhi will be hosting its first ever India-Africa heads of state meeting in the hopes of strengtening ties and heightening trade.  There is also, however, another prospect on the horizon:

But Africa offers more than just oil. Chalking up close to 6 percent economic growth in 2007, the continent could provide a ready-made market for Indian products, like Tata Motors’ ultra-cheap $2,500 Nano cars due to be launched in October.

In the words of Manmohan Singh, India’s interest in Africa extends beyond these factors as well (read more after the jump): Continue reading

Evening Edition

Just a few headlines for this evening:

  • Health: Another Planning Commission report reveals that India faces a shortage of doctors and nurses, but that the private sector can help remedy this issue, and accordingly, plan to set up hundreds of new medical education institutions as a public private partnership.
  • Energy: IT companies often consume a large amount of energy, especially in their data cooling centres. This has led to the creation of green data centres that handle data with “maximum energy efficiency and minimal environmental impact.”
  • Housing: The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation approved 696 projects aimed at achieving holistic slum development by providing adequate shelter and basic infrastructure facilities to urban slum dwellers.